Australian country music artists often cover American country songs, which is, of course, completely fitting: our country music can trace a certain amount of its lineage from the United States. However, while many of those Australian artists do a wonderful job with those covers, it’s hard to imagine anyone doing a better job than American-born now Australian-resident Jen Mize and Brisbane artist Mark Sholtez, who have released the album Twilight on the Trail, a collection of old American cowboy songs such as the traditional ‘Home on the Range’, ‘The Black Hills of Dakota’ (originally sung by Doris Day in Calamity Jane) and ‘Cow Cow Boogie’ (sung by artists including Dorothy Dandridge and Ella Fitzgerald).
Although the songs on the album have been interpreted in multiple ways in the past, Mize and Sholtez have resisted mimicry and created something beautiful and unique. They approach the material with sincerity and conviction, and the result is that they illuminate the best nuances of each tune and, it’s fair to say, bring more to each song than might have been found in before.
Mize’s heartbreaking, rich and complex voice marries so well with Sholtez’s sweet croon; they never compete with each other for primacy. The songs they sing on their own are just as compelling as those song together, but there is a certain kind of magic on the songs where they both appear. The magic is not hard to identify: it’s in their harmonies, and the sense that each has worked out the best way to support the other.
This is a truly glorious collection of songs. You don’t need to know the original songs to appreciate the achievement, or feel the joy that the performances of Mize and Sholtez bring. It’s not often that an album can be labelled an ‘instant classic’, but this is such a time.
Twilight on the Trail is out now.